Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tires in making

I got a guided tour through Continental bike tires factory in Korbach today and it was quite cool. 

Of course I did not understand the technical stuff the guy was telling me (I probably would not have understood even if it was not in German), but I saw how Competition tubular and Gatorskin clincher is made from scratch, plus some other things associated with the production. I did not see the production of a mountain bike tire because I told him that I want to see how road tires are made but I guess that it is the same process as a road tire production.

For example they put an extra funny orange net into Gatorskins to make them more flat-proof. It does not work all the time of course:) I never knew whether they make it flat-proof by adding something special into the rubber mixture (thus chemical reinforcement) or whether it is purely mechanical. Now I know. And of course it is a net with holes, not a continuous sheet of something to keep the weight lower.

And I understand why they say “hand-made in Germany”. It is at least true for tubulars because there are ladies that are actually sewing a tube into the tire and then sewing the tire together on sewing machines. Geez, a lot of work. Of course it is not like an Asian sweatshop, there are only 4-5 ladies altogether slowly doing this. They are the same ladies that are on Conti “hand-made in Germany” posters too, but they look more cheerful in real life:)

And I know why the Conti Olympic track tire costs 200+Eur.
Tires are made from rubber mixture that it made of different components just mixed together in mixers and then mixture is flattened into huge sheets that are cut and the tires can be made. But these Olympic tires….still made from mixture of course, but it is somehow special and the mixture is not flattened into sheets and cut, this mixture is made into a very fine thread of goldish color. And there are these long cylinders around which this tiny thread is tied going into different directions, like if you very making a net. It takes forever (I forgot how many hours he said it takes) and at the end you again have a rubber sheet but this sheet looks like a piece of textile or a net from rubber threads placed very tightly together. Then they cut it and make tires. Insane. 

And I finally know what that black chilly compound is. Ok, I do not know what exactly goes into that compound but I was always wondering whether it has something to do with chilly. Turned out that no, it has nothing to do with chilly:) But if your tire has a chilly compound in it, you can be sure that it was indeed made in Germany because the compound is not added anywhere else. 

They make color tires in Korbach very rarely because it makes too much mess in mixers and on machines and they have to clean everything everytime they want to produce a tire of a different color, but the process is the same, just mixture is colorful. I think that they have blue, yellow, red and white tires (although I have never seen the white ones). They do not perform as good as black tires do because of the weight I guess. But they make them because there are people who prefer to be cool and not fast:)

On a training note: 4k swim (w/up 500, 100-200-300-400-500-500-400-300-200-100 tempoish, 500c/d) today.
It was great, I had 8 lane 50m outdoor pool almost all to myself. I wish Hannover pools were like this one. I am sure that it has something to do with very cold temperatures (stupid Europe! It was almost 30 degrees when my parents were here and then 4 days later bam! Heaters in my apartment are on full blast because it is so cold) but in Hannover even when it cold is people are in pools.

I do not know how I am going to run here. I have not found any routes with soft surfaces here so the only option is roads or track. I really do not think that running for 65min on hard roads is good idea so I might do 50:50 roads and track. Grrrr. And one would think that running is the easiest discipline to train for because you can run anywhere. Definitely not true!


  1. That is super cool. I'd love to see that process- and ya- afterward would likely bitch less about how much I pay for tires!

  2. I only ride Continental tires...and I coach a guy that works for them....lovely combination! Glad you got to see them make the tires, that would be COOL!!!!